A place for thought.

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-seven)

Mr. Allen is hanging onto a ladder with one arm, a book in his hand, reading, he was sorting books on the high shelves of his bookstore but he found an interesting book, he may be up there for hours. Ricky is sitting on the sofa next to me reading the latest Fantastic Four comic book. Sally is curled up on the floor sleeping. I’m reading the new Flash. Ricky and I are readers, not collectors. Mr. Allen has a three-for-one exchange program, we turn in three old comics and he gives us one new one. We do all our reading here, leave our books here and Mr. Allen lets us know when it’s time for a free one. Today is a free day.

“Mr. Allen!” I shout so he can hear me above the story he is reading.

“How can I help you?” he asks without leaving his book.

“Do you believe there could be intelligent life in the universe?” it’s just something I’ve been wondering about.

“Counting Earth?” he asks with a grin, actually leaving his book for a second to look at me and see if I get the joke.

“I know all about Earth,” I answer. “Out there,” I point to the sky, “any intelligent life up there?”

“No idea,” he goes back to reading. That’s one of the things I like about Mr. Allen – he doesn’t do a lot of speculation.

Ricky, on the other hand, loves to speculate, “they would be much different. We might not even understand their intelligence. Or they could be so small that we pay no attention to them. Or covered with purple fur!” he laughs at his own joke and returns to the Fantastic Four.

We walk down the center of the brick covered walkway of our quiet town scanning from right to left as we walk, watching for anything out of the ordinary – anything that might need our attention. The comics have brought the super hero in us to the surface and we need to express our powers.

“What’s that?” Ricky asks as a cat scampers down a narrow alley between two stores.

“Cat,” I answer and continue to scan.

“What’s he doing?” I ask, watching a guy unlock a bike and remove it from a bike rack.

“Guy unlocking his bike,” Ricky answers in a monotone like the police use sometimes on TV.

Sally barks once, just to let the guy know we are watching him. We keep walking one step at a time down the center of the brick covered walkway, scanning from left to right looking for something the needs our attention.

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-six)

Something has the cows upset, some of them have actuality moved a foot or two, others are murmuring about something. I scan the area looking for a reason. A half a mile away, about where the dirt path begins, a puff of dust comes toward me. As the puff of dust gets closer the cows stand up and discuss moving to another location.   The puff of dust becomes a large white dog at a dead run toward my tree. The cows start nudging each other. The dog is close enough for me to see it is Sally. The cows move a good twenty feet away, they all turn and watch her approach with great interest.   Sally makes it to the trunk of the tree and scrapes her paws on the rough trunk while she barks letting me know my hiding place had no effect on her and that she now has me treed. Way back at the start of the trail I see, what must be, Ricky. Ricky’s walking at normal speed and should be here in fifteen minutes or so, I’m sure Sally has plans to keep me entertained by the sound of her voice for at least that long. I settle back into my place on the branch. The cows come back to their shade, not at all happy about Sally but willing to work something out. She stops barking long enough to rub noses with a couple of them and then returns to pointing out she knows I’m up the tree.

“Thought I’d find you here,” Ricky says as he looks for a foothold and a path up the tree. The cows are just glad Sally has stopped her barking. They return to their peaceful chewing. “My mom wants you to come by for some cookies,” he climbs in to the tree and starts using branches like a ladder. “All she talks about is how you saved Toby’s life. I told her all you did was keep him from accepting a job offer that would have made us all rich,” he reaches a branch next to mine and makes himself comfortable.

“Thanks,” Ricky knows how I feel about fame. “Cookies are always good. Did you bring any?

“Nah, they are still cooking, she was just getting stuff together to mix when I left,” Ricky starts scanning the countryside. Sally, at the base of the tree has curled up and gone to sleep, her task accomplished.   The cows are pleased. “They found my dad’s car, it was in one of those storage rental places.”

“Figures,” I say, like I’m deep in thought but really I’m letting my brain take a rest. And then my mind goes back to something Ricky said, “What kind of cookies?” I ask.

“She had the bag of chocolate chips on the counter.”

“See any walnuts?”

“And dried cranberries.”

“We should probably be going.”

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-five)

Most of the time being a Super Kid is something I enjoy: the look of surprise when the little guy in the crowd is the one with the right answer, the honest thanks from people who have escaped danger or had their problem solved, even a little bit of hero worship can be fun – for awhile, but being in the spotlight, being singled out, having people expect you to solve their problems gets old. After a big splash of superness I find it is best to lay low for awhile, let the rumors die down, don’t do anything that might create a snowball effect and build an image I would really rather not have.

I have a four-foot long, one-inch thick, bare branch from a walnut tree in my hand. I poke at the dirt with the stick every third step so that if anyone sees me they will know I am on a hike. But the odds are against any one seeing me. Our town is a mile away. I’ve been walking on a path made by cows for half an hour. Once in a while I do have to be careful to step over things the cows have left behind but other than that there are few decisions to make. I’ve decided to put one foot in front of the other and that seems to be working out well. A lizard runs across the path and startles me. I wave my stick at him but he’s long gone. I hate snakes and try to make enough noise to let any snakes know I’m coming. It must be working. I haven’t seen a snake yet. A tree sits on the edge of the path. Six black cows rest lying on the ground in the shade of the tree. They watch me as I approach wondering if they will be required to move or not. Under their long eyelashes their big brown eyes follow my every step. One of the cows starts to stand and then decides it’s just too much trouble and returns to chewing cud. I have to step over the legs of one cow to get to the trunk of the tree but she doesn’t seem to mind. I find myself a place to sit in the highest branch that can support my weight and watch the cloudless blue sky.


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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-four)

“Make sure you let him finish at the house so you can follow him back to where they are keeping Ricky’s dad,” I speak softly and try to sound like a little kid so the detective won’t think I’m trying to tell him how to do his job even if I am.

Detective Randolph takes it well, “right, boss,” he pats me on the back. “Our main concern is Mr. Sanchez,” Randolph walks with us out to our car and reassures me one more time, “everything is going to be fine.”

Ricky and I sit in church, my family and his all on the same pew. The singing is done and the guy is talking to us when Ricky’s mom’s cell phone rattles in her purse. She gives the phone a worried look and slips out of the pew. She sneaks down the outside aisle, past rows of seating and out the double back doors. After just a few minutes Ricky’s mom comes back, just as quietly as she left. The only difference is her look of concern has been replaced by a big grin. We all join in one last song, Ricky’s mom whispers in Ricky’s ear and they now have matching smiles. As soon as we are out the back doors I plant myself in front of her and wait for the news.

“There were two men, they brought Toby with them so they didn’t even get a chance to mess up the house. Detective Randolph made the arrest as soon as they went through the front door.”

Just to make sure I ask, “Toby is Ricky’s dad?”

Ricky’s mom grins, “he’s just fine. That was him on the phone. He said they took care of him like he was some sort of king. They tried to get him to come work for them but of course he couldn’t. I think he had about as much fun as a person can, considering he was kidnapped and all.” We all go to Ricky’s house to wait for Mr. Sanchez to get done telling his side of the story to the police at the police station. My Mother and Ricky’s mom get busy in the kitchen; my father finds the Sunday paper and hides behind it so Ricky, Sally and I take the wagon to my house. Ricky and I load it full with Ricky’s dad’s papers and stuff. Sally just runs around in circles, she knows something good has happened even if she hasn’t a clue as to what it might be.

“Boy, I feel better,” Ricky says as we pull the wagon back to his house. He sounds like he can’t believe things have been straightened out.

“I told you we would figure it out. When I realized we didn’t have to figure it out, we just needed to get your dad back, that made it a lot simpler.” A police car pulls into the driveway of Ricky’s house so Ricky and Sally start running and leave me to pull the wagon. The hugging, jumping and tail wagging is still going on as I park the wagon in a corner of the garage.

Inside sitting around the dinning room table Ricky’s dad tells the whole story while we eat chicken and potatoes, “they were really very nice. They just wanted a few secrets. They treated me very well.”

“So what are you working on?” I ask. I figure since I helped get him rescued he might tell me what this was all about.

“I could tell you…” Ricky’s dad starts cautiously.

“But then he would have to kill you,” Ricky finishes the joke and everyone laughs but we also understand the we are not going to find out what Ricky’s dad is researching any more then his kidnappers did.

“Do you know where your car is?” my father asks.

“Not yet, the police will get it out of them, they never wanted the car. They were watching me leave work and saw how I took things back and forth in the car. They just wanted my papers,” after a pause he adds, “and me.” Ricky’s dad looks at me and gets a real serious look on his face, “thank you, son. I understand your quick thinking put the police in the right place at the right time.”

“If you drove a nicer car it would have been much harder. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want that car!” I answered honestly.

“Jimmy!” my mother said trying to remind me to be courteous. Ricky’s dad just laughed. He’s proud of his bucket of rust on wheels.

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-three)

I sit and stare at all the stuff we just stored in the tree house. I know what I have to do but sometimes it’s tough being a ten-year-old kid. I sit and try to think of another way for a full ten minutes.   The back door closes behind me with a thunk. My mother is in the kitchen wiping the edges of the table with a damp cloth.

“Hey Mother, where’s the Father?”

She gives me a little hug, “Did your friend go home?” I nod. “How’s he doing?”

“He’s okay. He’s worried but he’s okay,” I just stand there and wait for an answer to my question.

“Your Father is reading in the living room, he had a long day.”

“I know, it’s going to get longer,” I let the words trail behind me as I leave the kitchen and go into the living room. My Mother is correct. My Father is sitting on the sofa hiding behind a fully open newspaper, which usually means he wants to be alone. “Father,” I stand at the end of the sofa, leaning against the over stuffed arm.

“Jimmy,” he looks over the top of the paper.

“I think we need to go back to the police station.” He folds the newspaper into a half sheet, sets it on the coffee table, scoots over, pats the sofa where he wants me to sit and waits for more. I tell him about the basement, what Ricky’s dad does for a living and how the car might be involved.

“So, we need to go right now?” my father may not say much but he’s a good listener and he does something that is hard for a lot of adults – he listens to kids.

“Ricky’s mom works from their home,” my father waits for more. “She’s home almost all the time,” He waits some more. Part of being a good listener is having patience. “Tomorrow is Sunday,” he’s got it now. I can see the light in his eyes.

“I’ll call and see if Detective Randolph is still in, he’s a pretty good friend,” my Father understands adults and how they listen to kids, he knows we need a friend on the inside if we are going to pull this off.

The only spare room at the Police Station is an old interrogation room, it still has the two-way mirror across one wall and there is a place to attach handcuffs on the bolted to the floor steel table. A single white bulb hanging by it’s cord over the center of the table lights the room. Detective Randolph leads us in, he waves at the chairs around the table as he props open the door with a rubber wedge. He looks tired; he was on his way home when my Father called.

“So what’s up Huel?” I look around the room to see where Huel is in the second it takes me to remember my Father’s name.

“I want you to hear the kid’s story,” my Father says and turns the whole thing over to me. I start with exploring the basement and tell him everything I know, he starts to get interested when I tell him about the box bolted into the back of Ricky’s dad’s Honda, I can tell he doesn’t like the part where we move the stuff into the tree house but he listens to the whole story without interrupting.

“So what time is Church in the morning?” I can tell he’s on board. I let out a little sigh of relief. My father fills him in on times and adds a few ideas of his own.

“I’ll call Mrs. Sanchez and bring her up to speed,” and then Detective Randolph looks right at me with his all business face, “and you let us do our job.” I just smile so he adds, “even if you’ve already done half our work for us,” it’s hard for him to say but I appreciate it.

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-two)

But Ricky did not call.

The sun is almost down, it should still be light enough to see for another hour but a cool breeze is blowing from the west. I’m sitting on our front grass with my back up against the house, waiting. A kid with a wagon and a big white dog makes their way toward my house on the concrete sidewalk that runs across the front yards of the row of houses, as the wagon gets closer I can see it is piled with papers. Without asking I know Ricky’s plan and go to meet him.

“Good idea,” I say as soon as we are close enough together to talk. Sally runs up and gives me her wet nose greeting. I wipe my hand on my shorts.

Ricky looks dead serious, “I don’t know what anyone might be after so I pretty much brought everything!” He didn’t have to tell me, I can see. We skip the house and walk through the carport to the back yard. Without any instruction I climb up into the tree house as Rick starts putting papers, flash drives, bug samples and binders into our bucket on a rope. As soon as the bucket is full I pull it up and when empty I send it back down. It just takes three buckets to empty the wagon. We spend the rest of the evening lining one wall of the tree house with the stuff from Ricky’s basement, trying to put thing into some sort of order. It’s hard to organize because we don’t really know what is what. Ricky and Sally head back down the street just as the sun completely sets.

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part thirty-one)

“Your dad does a lot of work here at home?” it’s pretty obvious he lives down here in the basement.

“He carries a load of papers and insects every evening and carries a pile out every morning. My mom says he comes home because we feed him.”

“And he carries them in the Honda,” it’s the only connection I can think of. “He’s doing something with insects that’s important. He keeps some of the information in his head but he’s carrying a lot of it back and forth in the car. But why not just grab him and his stack of papers? Why go to all the trouble of taking the car?”

I’m just thinking out loud but Rick answers immediately. “That’s easy! The papers and bugs are all locked up! He spent several weekends building a box that just fits in the back of the Honda. The only way to get into it is to unlock the back deck lid and even with that unlocked each drawer has its own lock.”

“So why not just grab the whole box?” I figure it can’t be that big – the car is tiny.

“Cause it’s bolted in! That’s why. He had me hold a winch on the top of the bolts while he crawled under the car and put nuts on.” Ricky’s thinking now, “he knew someone might want to get at his notes. When he had me helping secure the box I just thought he wanted to make sure it stayed put while he was driving but now I see that he was making sure no one could easily remove it from the car.”

Still just thinking out loud I add, “If it were just simple notes about bugs he would have just laid them on the passenger seat. He knew he was going to start transporting information people might want to get at and built that box especially for the project he’s working on.” I stare at the tiny monster on the computer screen and wonder about what kind of trouble a bug so small it lives in eyebrows could get a person into.

“Friday night he brought in several stacks of papers,” Ricky was already looking around for the papers. “I think he brought in quite a bit of the stuff because of the car show. You know, so he could show off the car. He keeps them in brown folders and there should be some kind of external storage device lying around here.”

The door at the top of the steps opens and my mom pokes her head in, “Jimmy, time to go!”

“Two minutes!” I holler back.

I look at Ricky and he waves without stopping his search. “I’ll call when I find something.”

At the top of the steps I have an uncomfortable thought, “Ricky,” I keep my voice down so that Ricky needs to come to the base of the steps to hear, “the information they wanted wasn’t in the car.”

Ricky nods. He’s already figured it out, “what they want is down here. I know what to do, I’ll call you.”

But Ricky did not call,